Charlotte-Mecklenburg police say they have connected three suspects to potentially dozens of robberies in Mecklenburg and surrounding counties – cunning robbers who hit lightly-staffed restaurants and who may have spread crimes across several cities to elude investigators.
Now, investigators in at least six counties are comparing notes to figure out the scope of the robbery ring, said Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Capt. Michelle Hummel, who oversees the robbery unit.
Police say one of the suspects is Jonathan Shaird, 19, who was charged last week with robbing two businesses on Freedom Drive in less than a hour on Feb. 1. Two other men – DeShawn Hunt, 25, and Davon McKnight, 24 – were arrested on Thursday in Indian Trail. All three are from Charlotte.
Police say Hunt and McKnight robbed a Firehouse subs restaurant around closing time last Thursday. But someone who saw a suspicious vehicle in the neighborhood called police, who ultimately apprehended the pair after a car chase.
The three men have only been charged in a handful of robberies, but Hummel said investigators working over the weekend are looking at the men in connection with dozens of other cases since October from Salisbury to Clover, S.C.
Hunt has been charged in connection with a Jan. 13 robbery at the Cook-Out restaurant on Sardis Road North in Charlotte. Police have said they believe that robbery is connected to others at Cook-Outs in four counties, but no one had been charged with those crimes by late Monday.
In addition to Mecklenburg County, police are looking at robberies in several other jurisdictions: Salisbury, Kannapolis, Indian Trail, Mooresville, Denver and Clover. Authorities said the wide area of the crimes made it harder to detect a pattern.
They were cunning in other ways, too. In some instances, Hummel said, the robbers would patiently wait for a delivery driver or another employee to return to a business, then dash in.
“Basically you had one employee or two employees making entry into the business and they would make entry right after,” Hummel said.
The robberies typically happened late at night or early in the morning, when there were likely to be few people inside. The Firehouse subs robbery happened at closing time. The Taco Bell that Shaird is accused of robbing was hit just a few minutes after it opened at 10 a.m.
At other times, police say the robbers used violence and intimidation. In the Cook-Out robberies, police say the suspect shot out glass doors to gain entry into the building.
On Monday, little was known publicly about Shaird, Hunt and McKnight. The three men were friends who had mutual acquaintances, Hummel said, but she said investigators don’t believe they were part of a larger gang.
It was unclear whether they had lawyers.
Shaird spent a month in prison after being convicted of breaking and entering in 2011. Hunt was convicted of resisting a police officer in 2008 and of carrying a concealed gun in 2013, but was given probation.
Staff researcher Maria David contributed.